Doing your Duty

I was asked to speak in church today on "Doing your Duty". Here is what I prepared and presented.

Intro/Definition of Duty

“I love and cherish the noble word duty.”

President Monson


“Duty is the most sublime word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.”

 Robert E. Lee quotes


 “Do your duty, that is best; leave unto the Lord the rest.”

 David McKay quotes


 “I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble”

 Helen Keller quotes


 “If I do my full duty, the rest will take care of itself.”

 General George S. Patton quotes


Duty is work that you are obliged to perform.  In the gospel context, it an obligation to God to live his commandments and to serve him.  

All have duty to God

Our duty to God springs from the debt we owe him as our father and granter of all our blessings and possessions.  All of us share this duty regardless of our willingness to recognize or act upon it.

What is our Duty to God


The Lord gives us the opportunity to formally commit ourselves to Him with covenants.  Our duty to God preexists these covenants and is not dependent upon them.  But they symbolizes that we recognize our duty and are willing to fulfill it.


The first covenant we take upon ourselves is Baptism.  Alma teaching in Alma 18

8 and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—


We take the Sacrament every week to recommit ourselves to these baptismal covenants.  In part, the sacramental prayer reads...

“and witness unto thee, … that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them”


Men get the opportunity to exercise some of the Lord's power in service through the Priesthood.  With the conferral of the Lord's Priesthood, comes an Oath and Covenant that we promise that we will

receive in good faith and with honest intent both the Aaronic and the Melchizedek priesthoods. The covenant then obligates that priesthood holder to magnify his callings by fulfilling all the responsibilities associated with the office, teaching the word of God, and laboring with all his might to advance the purposes of the Lord (see Magnifying One's Calling; cf. Jacob 1:19). The priesthood holder is required to "obtain a knowledge of the gospel…[and] to render service—service in carrying the restored gospel, with all the blessings of the priesthood, to the peoples of the earth; and service in comforting, strengthening, and perfecting the lives of one another and all the Saints of God"


Many of us have had the opportunity to attend the temple and receive of the Lord's endowment there.  Elder Talmage wrote that

The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,-the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions.  (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, p. 84)


And finally, we get to make another covenant with the Lord and our spouse to be sealed together for time and all eternity.  

In 1995 President Hinkley read to us “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” which summarizes our obligations relating to the family. In part, it reads

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

God asks more of us than we are capable of

This list of commandments that I've detailed is daunting.  It is a lot of work and The Lord does expect a lot of us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ commanded us “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  


But, it is not overwhelming.  Satan wants us to feel overwhelmed and to quit.  The commandment of perfection is an eternal one, not something the Lord expects of us tomorrow.  What he does expect is continual progress.  


My children sometimes struggles with this feeling of being overwhelmed and wanting to quit.  The most recent example was yesterday when their mean dad decided they should learn to climb the tree in our back yard.  I grew up in trees and still climb them on occasion.  I though it would be great fun.  They viewed it as terrifying and wanted to quit.  In the end, Samuel decided climbing the tree wasn't too bad.  Katrina and Sarah perhaps aren't convinced tree climbing is fun, but know that they can do it.  Getting to this point required me climbing behind them and pointing out where to place there hands and feet to successfully climb the tree.


The Lord teaches us

“4 Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means....but be diligent unto the end.” (D&C 10:4)  Diligence is the key.  We learn and progress “line upon line, precept upon precept”  Sometimes we move forward slowly and sometimes quickly, but we must continue moving.  If we are diligent we will progress, we will be happy with ourselves, and the Lord will be happy with us.  

How can we successfully do our duty?

How can we follow all the commandments that we have promised the Lord that we will?  

Unknown unknowns

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.

—United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

This is a powerful concept that there are things that we do not know that we do not know.  I've seen this in my career as a software engineer.  If I know that a capability exists, I can easily research it and learn how to use whatever technique or function I need.  If I've never even been exposed to a something, I can't think to use it.  I've seen this seriously handicap coworkers as they were forced to solve problems using inferior methods.  I'm sure that others more knowledgeable than I, could point out situations I could have done better with more knowledge, my own unknown unknown.

Vision for children

Some of what the Lord has asked of us is rather tricky to actually go out and do.  For example, as a parent, I want my children to learn a work ethic.  I want them to develop faith in the Lord.  I want them have some talents.  I want them to have a spirit of love, charity, and service.  I have wonderful children, but the reality is that at 9, 6, and 4 they aren't were I'd like to see them end up and there isn't a straight, well defined line in how to help them get from their current state to my vision for them.  

To use Secretary Rumsfeld's language, there are some known unknowns and some unknown unknowns.  I know I don't know everything about being a parent.  I try my best to ask good questions of my children, to read good books on parenting and so forth.  But, there are a myriad of influences on my children that I can't foresee and prepare for.

The Juice

A number of years ago, an unusual bank robbery occurred.  Quoting from the New York Times, “At 5 feet 6 inches and about 270 pounds, bank robbery suspect McArthur Wheeler isn’t the type of person who fades into the woodwork.  So it was no surprise that he was recognized by informants, who tipped detectives to his whereabouts after his picture was telecast.

...less than an hour after the broadcast, he was arrested.

Wheeler had walked into two Pittsburgh banks and attempted to rob them in broad daylight.  What made the case peculiar is that he made no visible attempt at disguise.  The surveillance tapes were key to his arrest.  There he is with a gun, standing in front of a teller demanding money.  Yet, when arrested, Wheeler was completely disbelieving.  “But I wore the juice,” he said.  Apparently, he was under the deeply misguided impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to video cameras.

Commander Ronald Freeman assured … that Wheeler had not gone into “this thing” blindly but had performed a variety of tests prior to the robbery.  Sergeant Wally Long provided additional details — “although Wheeler reported the lemon juice was burning his face and his eyes, and he was having trouble (seeing) and had to squint, he had tested the theory, and it seemed to work.”   He had snapped a Polaroid picture of himself and wasn’t anywhere to be found in the image.  It was like a version of Where’s Waldo with no Waldo.”

David Dunning, a Cornell professor of social psychology, read this article and was intrigued.  He thought, “If Wheeler was too stupid to be a bank robber, perhaps he was also too stupid to know that he was too stupid to be a bank robber — that is, his stupidity protected him from an awareness of his own stupidity.”

We are all fools in comparison to God

Mr. Wheeler was a fool.  I don't think any of us are fools like Mr. Wheeler, but we are a long ways from God also.  If we lined up our relative wisdom and intelligence on a continuum with God, ourselves, and Mr. Wheeler, we would be a lot closer to Mr. Wheeler than to God.  We cannot be successful as parents, teachers, or whatever capacity we are put in without the Lord's help.  

He wants us to be successful.

Fortunately is willing and anxious to help.  “  7 ¶ ask and it shall be given, seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you:  8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”  Anything that doesn't interfere with his ultimate aim of making this time on earth “a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God”, he will willingly grant us.


The Lord has given us many tools to help us learn our duty and to have the courage to do it.  


We are given prophets to lead and guide us.  President Monson is a prophet, seer, and revelator.  He is a  a watchman upon the tower who can see a long way off.  He can see the unknown unknowns that we cannot see by ourselves.


The Lord is waiting to communicate with us through prayer if we will only ask.  Whatever strength, wisdom, and understanding we need, he is ready to supply.


The Holy Scriptures are sitting by our nightstand waiting only to be opened to provide comfort, reassurance, and guidance.  Their regular study provides a reservoir of strength that we can draw from in difficult times.


Lucy Meserve Smith


Esther was the queen of a Persian King Ahasuerus.  An evil man conspired to exterminate the Jews.  Esther was charged to go into her husband and plead on her people's behalf.  But the law said “whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.”

She was terrified that she hadn't been asked to see her husband in a month and that he was displeased with her.  Her life was at stake.  She sent a message saying “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

We know the story ends well, but what a difficult decision she was faced with at this point.  She could have relied on her status as a queen to save her.  Instead, she did her duty and did go into her husband the king.  He extended the golden scepter and she was able to save the Jews.  The bad guy was hanged and everyone was happy.

President Meek visited our ward a couple weeks ago when Bro Springer was sustained to the bishopric.  He briefly fell asleep on the stand.  There is a man who is truly wearing himself out in the service of the Lord.  He is doing is duty.



Brothers and Sisters, we are required of the Lord to do our Duty.  We must serve, love, testify, and give all the time, talent, and possessions that we posses to the Lord.  We have all the support we need from each other and the Lord to accomplish his will.  The Lord requires nothing of us except for our own benefit.  We will be happier, we will have happier families, and we will have the opportunity to return to him as we do the Lords will.

May I conclude with two scriptures.

Ecclesiastes 12:13
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. -

D&C 107:99-100
99 Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.
100 He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand. Even so. Amen.


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